Monday, July 25, 2011

Packing For Mars

This was a fun book, written for all of the people who want to know what life in space is really like. I've read lots of books on NASA, the space race, and astronauts, but this is the only one that really satisfied my immature curiousity about how astronauts poop, whether or not sex is possible in a zero gravity environment, and what really happens to a person's body after three weeks without showering. Each of these topics actually has its own chapter in this book, along with every other facet of what happens to a typical human being living in space. Like I said, it's a fun book.

Mary Roach is a wonderful, clever, witty writer who thankfully uses her admittedly immature sense of curiousity to ask seemingly beyond reproach people like Jim Lovell and other astronauts and high-ranking NASA officials what happens when somebody farts in space. I won't spoil the answer to that question, but I will say that I was happy to learn the experiment was conducted by a team of scientists in a parabolic jet that simulated a zero gravity environment. Lovell seemed like a good sport, but maybe that's because Mary Roach seems like such a witty, charming lady. And, really, if you're the scientist who designed the first working toilet in a space station, you're going to love to finally talk about it with anybody, let alone a best selling author.

If anything, Roach might actually be a little too charming, since she tends to place herself into the book a little too often, but that was a style choice intended to give the reader a proxy to guide us on this great adventure, but it did some across as a little cloying and cutesy in places, though they were thankfully rare. Also, while her research and interviewing seemed incredibly detailed and meticulous, a few mistakes did pop up here and there. For example, at one point she references the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey where actor Keir Dullea jogs around the circumference of the space ship's centrifuge, but we all know that was actually the character played by Gary Lockwood. This wasn't an error so egregious it made me want to throw the book away in disgust, but it was enough to make me wonder if there were any other mistakes I wasn't picking up on.

But whatever... this is a hilarious, thought provoking, brilliant book that has a unique look at the wonders of space travel. Reading this book over the past week or so was actually bittersweet since the final Shuttle mission just came to a close a couple days ago, so no more manned missions are planned within the next few decades, if at all. There are a lot of brilliant men and women who have worked tirelessly over the years, and much of their work is currently being scrapped because the space program is no longer politically viable. The conclusion of this book is actually a brilliantly written argument in favor of keeping the space program going, and it should be read by Obama and every other politician in Washington. But, really, it should be read by anybody who's the least bit interested in space travel, or just curious about what happens to poop after an astronaut takes a number 2 in space.

Check it out.

1 comment:

Mugato said...

I will totally check this out. I hate when they make mistakes in books, why not double check this stuff. That being said, that scene in the movie took way too long anyway. They keep saying that the space program is handing over the reigns to Russia and private company's, doesn't that seem like a bad idea? Two people that you can't trust, Russians and businessmen.